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By Staff | Nov 11, 2016

Most of the Midwest experienced another near perfect week of Indian Summer. In the middle first and middle part of October, when most corn growers were either contemplating putting tracks or the large mud tires on their combines, how many of them expected dry conditions during the middle and last part of harvest?

There have been a few and sometimes lengthy delays this fall, but we sure ended up on a positive note. It’s too bad no one informed or forecast the improved conditions so farmers would not have had to plow through the waterholes and wet fields or would have had to get the cables installed on their combines expecting to be pulled out. Oh well.

By the time you see this we will have endured one of the longest and surely the dirtiest presidential campaign in U.S. history. Centuries ago the king in Germany won their title by killing everyone else that wanted to be king. We are almost there now.

Harvest completions

Going through Nebraska and Northern Iowa this weekend as well as central and west central parts of the state earlier in the week verified that corn harvest should be in its final week now. Being able to directly bin most of the corn speeds things up.

The ground has dried sufficiently to allow field traffic and the grain is dry enough to put right in the bin with just fans on it.

Contrary to last year, the standability compared to last year is night and day different. Last year many fields were like pick-up sticks. This year the stalks are standing very well, though some have gotten soft and do not need a strong wind to push them over. What we know is that the bacteria that invade the roots and stalk produce an enzyme that dissolves the woody tissues in the stalk, thus leaving them susceptible to early breakage.

Growers also need to recognize that the weather gods smiled on them in that we never had a 90-plus degree day after Aug. 15 until Sept. 7. It is hot temps with a strong south wind and low humidities that pushes the moisture and nutrient needs in the kernel-filling beyond what the stalk and vascular system can support and when the plants die early.

By delaying those conditions until Sept. 7 rather than Aug. 24, it allowed the plants to fill an additional 14 days, which is almost exactly 25 percent of the grain fill time.

Currently one or the most accurate climatologists and the one who has very accurate psychic ability is forecasting a warm and dry growing season in 2017. Keeping the plants healthy and alive should pay dividends again.

Soil sampling

If you have not done so yet and need to update your soil sampling program now is the time to get a mapping-equipped agronomist into your fields to pull samples. Then discuss with him or her which elements you want the lab to analyze.

I am one who would sooner pull samples from larger grids or management zones, but get more complete information. The greatest ROIs can come from minerals you may not typically recognize as being important, but are to the plants. Those such as molybdenum, zinc, boron and manganese are important to nitrogen use and nitrogen efficiency in corn plants. Would you sooner spend $40 or $5 to boost yields?

Weed control plans

Over the next three months every grower who hopes to have relatively clean fields will have to get re-educated on new old products, sometimes from 20 year ago, and the best methods of application and products to add to them to make them effective.

The costs will likely be higher in that the gospel will be to use overlapping residuals to run the best chance to controlling the problematic weeds such as waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, where ever it shows up.

Prevention rather than rescue programs may be most effective as more of the weeds will show partial or complete resistance to different products.

And as time and seasons pass each generation of weeds likely moves one step closer to resisting what products worked the previous season.

Most of us have heard the admonition that the most expensive weed management program is the one that does not work.

There are quite a few growers continuing to ask about Liberty Link crops. They have done well, but in many cases there are often not enough varieties or seed supplies to meet demand. The company selling the Liberty is the first to recommend that growers act responsibly and apply residual herbicides down to a clean seed bed to better coverage of weeds within the treatable size group exist in a field.

Spraying during the proper time of day, which is two hours before sunset should be observed. Liberty and the other main post-emerge herbicides lose some effectiveness as the energy-rich blue wavelength of light gets filtered out just before sunset.

Prioritizing inputs

After riding in many combines during harvest most growers and consulting agronomists start to formulate what they plan to recommend to growers the next year to improve yields.

The first point of discussion is do they try to improve the yields all over the field or do they try more to correct the very bad spots first. It’s tough to hit a high field average if there are many low-yielding areas.

It may take a bit of sleuthing and comparing early and mid-season observations with final results to begin to develop a strategy. The place to start is typically looking at fertility maps. The pH, organic matter, rainfall patterns and drainage characteristics are all important. Phosphorus and potash levels are good to know.

We are increasingly seeing that sulfur and zinc levels are being recognized as being just as important.

Then available calcium levels and the micros manganese, boron, and cooper have to be considered.

Tissue testing will help to verify if the other micros molybdenum, cobalt and nickel are too short in supply to assist the plants in extreme situations with legumes.

What you don’t know can hurt you when these last minerals are concerned. Manure from animals fed a complete ration can help to supply these minerals. Without that material more fields are showing deficiencies of them in the form of poorly developed root systems, lots of leaf streaking, or poor N conversion.

This might be the year to be most attuned to having a well-balanced mineral level since crop respond best to balanced levels rather than one or two being abnormally high and the rest deficient.

Having a few soil samples analyzed using the Haney soil quality test also helps to explain why minerals in the soil may not be taken up by the plants.

Perfect blend

Two weeks ago I discussed the use of a biological-based, manufactured, high-carbon fertilizer that offers advantages when it or a mixture of it and conventional fertilizers are applied to light OM fields or where a pipeline has been dug in recently. Why it has been shown to be so effective is that it causes a big bloom in soil microbes right away.

These microbes form, grow and populated the oxygen-rich top 8 to 10 inches of top soil. When they die after their 18- to 26-day life cycle their carcasses rot and become a very complete and completely available nutrient fertilizer.

In tests they saw this black soil form even where the soil was very sandy before and had very low Haney scores. The researchers have seen that a 1,000-pound application can create a long-term benefit to the fields.


At this time the conferences to be aware of in the next month are:

  • The ISU Crops Conference scheduled for late November and early December.
  • The International Acres Conference in Omaha is scheduled at the same time.
  • The Iowa Aquaculture Conference will be held in Ames Nov. 17.
  • The Farm News Ag Show winter conference is scheduled for late November/early December.

If you have not been to the aquaculture conference and a son or daughter might be looking for a niche to participate in, you may find it worth attending. This industry has the potential to become huge in the Midwest including this state.

Cooperators will produce fresh seafood for people as their demands for a healthy, good tasting product is increasing very quickly.

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143 or www.CentralIowaAg.com.

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